23 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2020 issue 1

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Leisure Management - 2020 - what’s in store?

Talking point

2020 - what’s in store?

As we begin a new decade, will boutiques extend beyond the major cities? Will the budget boom continue? How will digital fitness impact the sector? Kath Hudson speaks to some of the industry’s big hitters to find out what 2020 could have in store

Kath Hudson
Digital fitness will continue to grow, following the rise of Peloton,

Rasmus Ingerslev
Director of REPEAT, Barry’s Nordic, Lenus, Wexer and Playbook
Rasmus Ingerslev

We’ll see continued growth of our industry overall in 2020 and five main trends will shape the coming year.

Firstly, there’s still room for more growth in the low cost sector. This will be aggressive in immature markets and slower in the mature, where it’s getting crowded, but not yet overpopulated.

Secondly, at the other end, I predict we’ll see further expansion of boutique clubs in large cities and more premium health club brands introducing boutique style studios and workouts.

We’ll also see more adoption of aggregators and a fight between the aggregators to win markets. They’ve changed the way we book accommodation in the travel industry and I think we’ll see them start to shape the fitness sector, which presents both an opportunity and a risk for operators.

The final two trends relate to digital fitness. Firstly, app providers are making it easy for people to consume fitness wherever and whenever they want by delivering workout programming as well as group class formats. Secondly, more app providers are offering online coaching. Both areas will see significant growth and operators will be missing a macro trend if they don’t also find ways to digitise their services.

"Health club memberships are seeing low double digit growth at best, while the growth in the digital space is 40 to 50 per cent"

There’s been significant growth in the use of paid fitness apps when compared to the growth of gym memberships, but this isn’t coming from the brick and mortar operators who are well positioned to make the most of this space.

Health club memberships are seeing low double digit growth at best, while the growth in the digital space is 40 to 50 per cent. More than 120 million people now pay US$5 or more for monthly fitness app subscriptions, while 200 million are members of health clubs.

The use of apps will become more sophisticated to support members in their fitness journey and we’ll see a full range of app services from free (advertisement based) to US$150 a month. The low cost apps are fully based on digital delivery and algorithms, whereas the more expensive ones offer strong technology with a high touch approach and expertise on top.

From an operator’s perspective, this development makes it fast and easy for talented trainers to set up on their own, rather than working for a club. There are a growing number of online tools allowing them to do this, offering scalability without high capital expenditure, meaning that the fight for talent will become even more intense.

Emma Barry
Global fitness authority, author of Building a Badass Boutique
Emma Barry

Gyms are now in the pocket, on screens and in the ears and this trend will grow. Following the rise of Peloton, the slew of fitness apps and platforms are poised to serve the biggest TAM (total available market), with triple digit growth.

Budget clubs are providing the lion’s share of in-person, member growth and are preparing to clamber into each other’s territories. Meanwhile boutique studios are on the move: heading beyond the big cities and into the communities, congregating in malls, entering traditional club-in-a-club spaces and meeting up in the digital marketplace of aggregators, like ClassPass, and digital platforms, like NEOU. Where budget clubs are adding headcount, boutiques are adding spend-per-month, bringing intense focus and up-levelling service touch-points

Emotional connection and community are key. Despite the AI, machine learning and algorithm frenzy we find ourselves in, people still matter, a lot. Companies which are not purpose-led, fuelled by positive people practices and authentically grown will not resonate with Millennial-minded purchasers today.

Wearables reign! The power of personalised data now sits with the user and offers warning shots to those touting “this workout will burn 1,000 calories.” The true hyper-personalised journey for optimal health is underway, as we all become our own human experiments and bio-hack ourselves to vital longevity.

"Telomere lengthening, mitochondria optimisation and genome editing will become table talk. Lack of sleep is the new sitting"

Forget the club next door, operators need to look out for the ‘big trucks’ coming on the highway of health, such as Apple, Amazon, Google and major consumer wellness and medical brands. These will start utilising their deep pockets and data analytics to grab market share.

Recovery methods will start to reach beyond infrared saunas, cryotherapy and compression towards patches, pills, apps, injectables and other proven and not-yet-proven tricks to enhance personal performance. Telomere lengthening, mitochondria optimisation and genome editing will become table-talk. Lack of sleep is the new sitting.

Travel is the highest expression of luxury experience and resides at the sharp end of the experience economy. Operators such as Equinox, BLOK and a multitude of others indicate a tipping point as they combine fitness addictions with the immersion of a curated travel experience with like minded zealots (see our feature on retreats on page 54).

And, while the US and UK are focused on impeachments and Brexit, plenty of money and innovation is flowing into Asia.

Digital fitness will continue to grow, following the rise of Peloton, says Barry
Dave Stalker
Europe Active: acting Executive Director
Dave Stalker

Technology will be one of the top trends. Wearable tech will lead the way and a move towards gamification to promote activity that will appeal to younger generations. As they’re so comfortable with technology and games, it’s an obvious route to attracting them in and getting them active.

Digital fitness and streaming classes will also grow in importance. If we do hit a recession and people think about dropping their membership, reduced-cost club ‘app memberships’ will allow a continuing relationship with customers and help clubs remain the community deliverers of exercise both inside and outside the four walls of the club.

We’ll see more innovation in public sector fitness. Leisure centres can no longer compete with the low cost sector on price alone, so they will need to be more forward-looking. They have the space to create boutiques within their clubs, which could take this metropolitan trend into less populous areas. Life Leisure is an excellent example of this, with the launch of H1VE – a premium concept within a local authority leisure centre at an affordable cost.

Climbing is an area I predict will boom. It’s simple and fun, and really popular with young people, who like the fact they can climb indoors or outside. The under 30s are very environmentally conscious and keen to make a difference and I think this is an activity which resonates with them.

"We’ll see more innovation in public sector fitness. Life Leisure is an excellent example, with the launch of H1VE: a premium concept in a leisure centre at an affordable cost"

Another area I predict will continue to grow in popularity is obstacle course racing. Companies like Tough Mudder and Spartan are slick with their marketing and social media and these concepts appeal to young people looking for a fun, social and competitive outdoor challenge. The opportunity for facilities to partner with these types of operators will also grow.

Aggregators will continue to be an issue and I hope the industry proceeds with caution. They’re here to stay, but it would be terrible to get to the situation where – in a client-facing business – we don’t own our own customer database and are not in charge of pricing.

I’m reliably told that clubs in Spain and Portugal have largely stopped using them. If I was an operator, I would definitely be listening to these stories and thinking twice about jumping into partnerships.

Stalker predicts Obstacle Course Racing will continue to grow in popularity, with opportunities for facilities to partner with providers PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Steven Scales
ukactive: Director of Client Services
Steven Scales

Enhanced data and segmentation will allow the fitness sector to thrive by better understanding consumer habits. There has never been a better opportunity for a customer-focused strategy and those who succeed in this area will increase retention and their revenue-generating offer.

There’s a trend across the consumer landscape of greater personalisation of services, driven by enhanced data and segmentation. The physical activity sector is no different and the early adopters are already demonstrating success. Sources of business intelligence and data-led insight in our sector will grow more powerful in 2020. Understanding customers’ wants and needs and catering to them will increase customer retention and the likelihood of upselling – from premier memberships to on-demand content or a range of clothing.

Collaboration will engage new markets and collectively grow the sector. Fitness operators compete with each other, but to survive and prosper the industry needs to come together when we can influence sector-wide issues to obtain collective benefits.

"The industry will start to integrate into the NHS through social prescribing. We need to work together as a sector on this, alongside the new National Academy for Social Prescribing"

ukactive, working on behalf of the industry, is lobbying to change the planning laws to make it easier to convert the use of premises on the high street and on reducing business rates in line with other sectors. We want our members to work together and share evidence to improve the position of the fitness sector. With a new government, now is the time to show how the sector can benefit public health, the economy and society as a whole.

The industry will start to integrate into the NHS through social prescribing – something our industry can get behind. It has the backing of the Department of Health and Social Care, with UK health minister, Matt Hancock, saying he supports ukactive’s policy call for an “activity prescription” to be made available for anyone with long-term health conditions.

We need to work together as a sector, alongside the new National Academy for Social Prescribing, to show how activity prescriptions can increase footfall to our facilities in order to improve the health of the nation and reduce the burden of preventable disease on the NHS.

The UK health minister Matt Hancock supports the concept of activity prescriptions PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

Originally published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 1

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